Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Family Trouble (1961)

Set in a small village in the north of Cornwall, near Bude, this short story, published in 1961 in the Collins' Girls' Annual, stars Nicky, daughter of the local vicar, her three sisters and their neighbours the Trevelyans. Jane Shaw was clearly a real asset to Collins by this time, with the popularity of the Susan books at their zenith and Crooks Tour in the works, ensuring lavish illustrations for her short stories.  
While climbing a tree, Nicky falls on Edward Trevelyan as he returns from a term at university. She is surprised to find him much changed. Unusual for a Jane Shaw story, the sixteen-year-old girl is immediately smitten by Edward. One of the few stories to contain a real romantic element, this story is also a departure from the typical JS style because it is told in the first person. This style was used in only a handful of her tales, most notably Susan's School Play, A Girl with Ideas and the Thomas books. In Family Trouble it works very well, as Nicky's thought processes are the key to all the humour in the story. 
In addition to the romantic theme, there is a typical Jane Shaw mystery afoot. Little sister Tubs excitedly tells her family that the police are on the lookout for an escaped convict from Dartmoor.
On the way to the local carnival, Nicky, dressed as a witch, bumps into her other little sister Ruth, who is dressed up as a Christmas cracker!
Nicky and her sisters have captured the convict. Or have they?
There has to be a happy ending for Nicky in her only appearance in a Jane Shaw story. A pity we never see her again. The family had potential...

The annual the story appeared in. Very nice cover. My copy has the following dedication on the inside front cover: To Libby, from Mummy, Xmas 1962. Poor Libby, whoever she was, doesn't appear to have had very loving parents!

Nicky tells us that the sea lies just across the fields from her village and in the distance she can just make out the isle of Lundy. This is the only Jane Shaw short story set in Cornwall. However, the Moochers novels are set there and Tessa, Susan's friend at St. Ronan's, lives there with her grandmother.